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MetroPCS waves wand, turns Samsung Galaxy mobe into a TV

Turn on, tune in, pray for no signal drop outs

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Cell phone operator MetroPCS has unveiled a Samsung Galaxy variant capable of receiving Dyle TV. The cheapo network seems undeterred by other companies' inability to successfully broadcast television to mobile phones.

The handset is a $459 spin of the Galaxy S with an extendible antenna and the capability to pick up Dyle TV - which is owned by a consortium of broadcasters that have agreed to pool radio spectrum in order to transmit free-to-air telly in the US.

This approach is cheaper to run than Qualcomm's MediaFLO or BT's Movio. Sadly it wasn't operating costs that drove MediaFLO and Movio into the ground, but the flawed premise that anyone wants to watch broadcast TV on pocket-size phone.

While normal television viewing is rapidly moving to video-on-demand, and viewers increasingly able to pause and rewind even live broadcasts, it seems counterintuitive to broadcast television to mobile telephones. However, the economy of broadcast is considerable, and MetroPCS is having a hard time delivering video streams over its 4G network which is squeezed into its diminutive spectrum holding.

Next-gen mobile broadband LTE is headlined as being faster than previous generations of mobile telephony, but its real value lies in its flexibility. When there's lots of bandwidth available one can achieve breathtaking speeds, occupying as much as 20MHz of spectrum (compared to 3G's 5MHz width) but LTE can also slim down to one or two MHz (or 1.4MHz in the case of MetroPCS) enabling it to make the most of what's there.

Which leaves the operator fertile ground for Dyle TV, which has been selling the idea of mobile television to various US broadcasters. Dyle TV isn't available everywhere, by a long stretch, but considering its uphill challenge, the group has done a remarkable job: it has coverage in more than thirty cites around the US.

For the moment the content is free. Putting Pay TV into the airwaves is politically difficult in the US given the TV broadcasters are already being asked to justify their spectrum allocation, so anyone shelling out $459 for the Galaxy S Lightray 4G will get the ability to pick four broadcast channels for nothing.

But portable televisions have been around for decades with very limited appeal, and building the technology into phones has failed before: MediaFLO was shut down in 2010 while the UK-wide Movio network was switched off in 2007 thanks to poor sales and a fundamentally flawed business model.

Using existing infrastructure will make Dyle TV cheaper to operate and the handset is a lot prettier than the Lobster thing that was fostered on punters in Blighty, but none of that's going to help if people simply don't want to watch TV on their little cell phones. ®

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